WALLINGFORD — Young thespians at Sheehan High School are taking on a 1930s Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy this weekend for the annual fall play.
“You Can’t Take It With You” is a story about the son of a rich banker who falls in love with the granddaughter of an eccentric bohemian and what happens when the very different families meet, finding that being true to themselves is more important than chasing wealth.
The play is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Sheehan auditorium, 142 Hope Hill Road.
Director Jasmine Kehrhahn, a Sheehan English teacher, said with the increased number of students who auditioned this year, she needed to find a script to accommodate more actors.
“It’s also just the nice, heartwarming message of the show that I think particularly for high schoolers to hear...but it is still a fun comedy at the same time,” she said.
The Broadway play ran for 838 performances in 1936 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1937.
The movie adaptation, directed by Frank Capra and starring Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart and Jean Arthur, won the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars in 1938.
Kehrhahn said the student actors pushed themselves to adapt to characters and humor of the 1930s, something they didn’t find relatable immediately.
The script was also updated to reflect social changes since the 1930s, she said. Stereotypical depictions of black and Russian characters and outdated period language were changed.
“While they’re still comedic characters, we’re not trying to play to that (stereotype),” she said. “It was really fun to have those discussions with the kids and have them recognize we’ve grown a lot as a country and things have changed so much, we need to frame these characters differently than they were originally intended.”
The core story has stood up over time, Kehrhahn said, and the students were able to recognize the trope of opposites attracting in modern movies like “Meet the Parents” or “The Addams Family” musical.
The cast is mostly female students with a couple of male actors.
Freshman Riley Kearns plays rich banker Anthony Kirby. She said that unlike the large casts of musicals she’s participated in before, doing a play is a much more intimate experience that takes a lot of teamwork and cooperation.
“Everyone works together, to help each other memorize their lines, because you know everyone now,” she said.
Tickets are $5 for students and seniors and $10 for general admission.